When Carson Wentz took his first snap as an NFL quarterback, the expectations were low. Having been thrust onto the stage at the last minute due to a shocking trade with Minnesota, the rookie quarterback took the league by storm, leading the Eagles to a 3-0 record and defying all odds in the process. As the season has drawn on however, the play of Carson Wentz has regressed..and the critics have been licking their lips.
From the “Dink and dunk” arguments to those finding flaws in his mechanics, including his Head Coach, the last few weeks have showcased the first real adverse circumstances that Wentz has had to deal with. Whether it was Pederson’s comments on his mechanics, Reich’s response to if losing is affecting his mentality, something sparked a fire inside the NDSU star last week.
Even though the Eagles narrowly lost to the Redskins last Sunday, Carson Wentz arguably played the best game of his career. Completing 32/46 passes for 314 yards, 1TD and 1INT, it’s just the second time this season that Wentz accumulated a QBR of over 75. But what made this performance so special, was the lack of weaponry at his disposal.
Unlike the win over Pittsburgh, there was no Lane Johnson to protect the future of the franchise. Instead, a combination of a third string and fourth string right tackle tried to keep Ryan Kerrigan at bay. A wounded Offensive line that saw three backups take to the field in various circumstances was still the least of concerns.
A backfield that rushed 20 times less than Carson Wentz passed was able to open up the Offense to a certain degree, but a balance was still missing. In fact, one of the only times it was present this season was in the only other game Wentz attained a QBR of over 75, against Pittsburgh.
With more pressure on Wentz to throw the ball, he was forced to rely on tight ends Zach Ertz and Trey Burton. A receiving corps that is now compromised of two undrafted free agents, a second round pick with “character concerns”, a struggling Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews who is recovering from an ankle injury, actually received for less combined yards than the combined yardage of Burton and Ertz..which says a lot.
Doug Pederson placed heavy emphasis on utilizing the skill sets of the tight ends in order to open things up Offensively and for the large part it worked, but the need for a playmaker on the outside is now as glaring as ever.
Given the lack of help both in front of and around Carson Wentz and the pressure placed on him by the media after an embarrassing loss to the Bengals, the way that he rebounded to lead that Offense until the very final drive was beyond impressive and a true sign that he will become the Franchise quarterback the Eagles drafted him to be.
Against the Ravens however, we will see just how far he’s come since taking snaps behind Sam Bradford in Training camp. With both Ryan Mathews and Wendell Smallwood out with injury and a makeshift Offensive Line, Wentz will once again be heavily reliant on his inside playmakers, but also looked up to for leadership.
The Eagles have lost five of their last six games and four consecutively. Playoffs are now a pipe-dream and even Doug Pederson has shifted his vision to the bigger picture when it comes to press conferences. It’s these kind of situations where the team look to the man at the centre of it all, the quarterback.
Wentz has often been praised for his mental savvy and leadership qualities..and against the best rush Defense in the league and a pass Defense that has held quarterbacks to an average of 236 yards per game, Wentz truly becomes the heartbeat of the Offense.
If there is anyone who is going to inspire a banged up Eagles Offense to shine against such a tenacious Defense, it’s Carson Wentz..and if there’s anyone playing with a chip on his shoulder right now, it’s Carson Wentz.
Coming off of a hot week against Washington, there is absolutely no reason to slow down against the Ravens. If anything, this game is a chance to see just how far he’s come. If Wentz can carve up such a stern Defense that’s vying for playoff contention, without a real ability to audible..it will speak volumes of his character, mental toughness and overall ability.
It’s been a rollercoaster season for Wentz and that was always going to be expected. A rookie who was bought in purely to marinate behind Sam Bradford has been thrown into the deep end and expected to swim to safety. He’s done more than that in his first season, but now we’re going to find out if he’s ready to take an even deeper plunge and earn one more stripe.
The odds are stacked against the Eagles quarterback and his battle against adversity reaches a new platform when he travels to M&T Bank Stadium. With a lack of help around him, a ruthless Defense staring him down and a season without playoff substance, this will be the first game of the year in which we see just how far Carson Wentz has developed. Not just as a quarterback, not just his mechanics..but as a player, a teammate, a leader..and a man.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports